With state, county and city officials ignoring calls to regulate the use of medical marijuana under 1996’s voter-approved Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215), one Pasadena activist has learned that her city’s government also isn’t interested.
Liz McDuffie, owner of the Ritz Resale store on North Mentor Avenue, recently asked for a permit to prepare and package a medicinal cannabis butter and various baked goods at the Institute for Urban Research and Development’s commissary — a kitchen area that is supported by federal grants to the city and is used by street vendors to meet state food preparation guidelines.
No one knew exactly what to do about it.
City Health Department officials told McDuffie she would need permission from the IURD commissary before getting a permit; but the IURD could not accept her without approval from the Health Department, they told the Weekly.
Meanwhile, city officials were waiting for word from the state Department of Health Services, but department spokeswoman Michelle Mussuto told the Weekly that it’s up to Pasadena, as the state only regulates medical marijuana user identification cards.
Finally, the lawyers weighed in, urging a decision against McDuffie. For medical use or not, all pot is illegal and can’t be sanctioned by officials, City Attorney Michelle Beal Bagneris told the Weekly.
McDuffie, who uses marijuana to treat a chronic health condition, said her goal was not to distribute the butter in Pasadena — City Council members have put a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, awaiting regulation guidelines from county or state officials — but to make sure edible cannabis distributed at Los Angeles dispensaries would be more sanitary and contain ingredient labels.
Some patients who turn to the drug to relieve the agonizing symptoms associated with such diseases as AIDS and cancer have gotten sick from badly prepared foodstuffs because none of its preparation and content is regulated, she said.
Although sympathetic to her intentions, Pasadena Health Department Director Takashi Wada said he must follow Bagneris’ lead unless the City Council directs him otherwise.
“I would say if society is going to accept that marijuana has legitimate medical uses, it would be appropriate for us to regulate it in a way that the product could be produced as safely as possible,” said Wada, who was critical of the state for not taking more of a leadership role.
Even though state officials are leaving the medical pot issue up to Pasadena, it doesn’t look like City Council members are going to discuss it, said Councilman Paul Little, an advocate for government regulation of medical pot.
“We’re stuck in that same place, which is between the state law based on Prop 215 and federal law, which says it’s illegal,” he said.